Sunday, December 4, 2016

JonBenet Ramsey

The Case of JonBenet Ramsey

In 1996, Boulder, Colorado was a town of just over 90,000 people. It was populated by mostly middle-class residents and had little to no crime rate. John Ramsey was the CEO of a computer company and his wife, Patsy Ramsey had been Miss West Virginia in 1977. Their first child was a boy, named Burke Ramsey. Then, three years later, John and Patsy had JonBenet Ramsey. The family was very active in the community. Seeing as Patsy had quite the pageant background, she wanted the same for her daughter. JonBenet competed in many pageants and earned several titles, but just around Christmas Day in 1996, the Ramsey’s lived would be forever changed.

It was Patsy Ramsey that first discovered JonBenet was missing. In the early hours of December 26, 1996, she found a two-and-a-half page ransom note sitting on the stairs written to Mr. Ramsey. The note disclosed information that is crucial to the crime. Both James Fitzgerald, a retired FBI supervisory special agent and forensic linguistic profiler, and Brenda Anderson, a forensic document examiner, have their doubts about this ransom note. Immediately, it was clear to see that the note was unusual. Typically, ransom notes are kept as short as possible, but JonBenet’s note was extremely drawn out and gave a lot of detail. Anderson believes that whoever wrote the note started with a style of handwriting that was not typical, but as the letter progressed, the handwriting became more natural. She also believes that the handwriting looked “type-writer” style, which was more common for women than men. The letter stated that those who took JonBenet were a “group of individuals” that represented a “small foreign faction”. This is off-putting because usually ransom notes are written in attempts to show power, so “small” is out-of-place. The letter then says that “we respect your bussinesses”. First, the word business is misspelled. Fitzgerald believes this is an intentional attempt to prove their “foreignness” because several more difficult words are spelled correctly later in the note. Anderson also believes that this written in an attempt to put distance between the investigation and John’s business and to protect the Ramsey’s source of income. Next, the kidnapper demands that “withdrawn $118,000 from the [Ramsey’s] account”, but ironically, this is the exact amount that John Ramsey received that year as a bonus. Both Fitzgerald and Anderson believe that this note was written by a women considering there is “feminine” language scattered through the note, such as “listen carefully”, “watching over your daughter”, “do not particularly like you so I advise you not to provoke them”, and “be well rested”. Despite being initially addressed to Mr. Ramsey, he was referred to as John three times in the letter, meaning whoever wrote the note felt comfortable with him. Finally, the ransom note warns four times that if anyone is alerted, “she dies”. This hints that when the note was written, JonBenet was already dead. If she were still alive, it would have been written “she will die”.

Upon finding the note and looking in her daughter’s room, Patsy claims she woke her husband and called 911. Jim Clemente, a former New York City prosecutor, retired FBI supervisory special agent, and profiler met with the woman the received the 911 call. She claimed something felt off about the whole conversation, but it got very odd when the call “ended”. Apparently, Patsy believed she hung up the phone, but she was not fully disconnected from emergency services. The 911 operator claims there was an immediate shift in tone on the other line and it sounded as if three people were talking, but Patsy claims her son Burke was still asleep in bed and only her and her husband were awake. There have been audio enhancements of the conversation on the other line, but the call itself is what is most certain. Patsy says, “We have a kidnapping. Hurry, please.” She does not state that it is her daughter who has been kidnapped. The operator asks her to explain what is going on and Patsy says, “We have a, there's a note left and our daughter is gone.” It seems as though she goes to say the same thing twice, but cannot bring herself to do it. Patsy then first says that there is a note left and her daughter is gone. Clemente believes order is important. The first thing Patsy should have said is her daughter is gone. Instead, she mentions the note first. The 911 operator asks Patsy how long ago was it, and Patsy says, “I don't know. I just found a note and my daughter's missing.” The word “just” is used as if Patsy is trying to minimize her actions or time from that morning. Next, instead of using “gone” again, Patsy uses the term “missing”. This change in vocabulary hints she may known more than she is telling. The operator asks if the notes says who took [her daughter]. Patsy only responds with, “What?” This is most likely a stalling technique used for a sensitive subject, but it could be that Patsy simply didn’t hear the operator. The operator repeats the question and this time, Patsy says, “No, I don't know it's there... there is a ransom note here.” Despite the note kind of saying who took her, Patsy initially just says “no”. Next, rather than calling it a note, again, Patsy calls it a ransom note. This is another change in vocabulary that points to deception. The 911 operator asks for clarification and Patsy now says, “It says S.B.T.C. Victory... please.” In actuality, the note read “Victory! S.B.T.C.”, which makes Clemente believe that Patsy Ramsey did not have the note in her hand at the time, otherwise a panicked mother would read the signature in order. The operator asks who she is, so Patsy says, “Patsy Ramsey... I am the mother. Oh my God. Please.” Rather than say, “I am her mother”, Patsy says she is “the mother”. This makes it all less personal and puts distance between herself and JonBenet. The operator asks if Patsy knows how long her daughter has been gone, to which Patsy says, “No, I don't, please, we just got up and she's not here. Oh my God. Please.” Again, Patsy uses the term “just” as if she is trying to minimize the action or time taking place that morning. Finally, Patsy asks that the operator “Please send somebody,” before trying to hang up. To the operator, that seemed strange because typically with those kind of calls, the person will not even consider hanging up until police arrive. It’s as if the 911 operator is their lifeline. The possible statements the Clemente and his team believe they heard are John Ramsey saying, “We’re not speaking to you.” Then Patsy asks “What did you do?” Finally, a younger male voice seems to say, “Well, what did you find?” But, it is difficult to understand the conversation even with modern technology, so that conversation has been deemed inconclusive.

After calling 911, the Ramsey’s apparently called several family friends and urged them to come over, even though the ransom not clearly stated not to contact anyone. Police arrived and conducted a first search of the house, but did not find any sign of forced entry. A forensics team was also sent to the house, but they only believed it was a kidnapping, so they only sealed off JonBenet’s bedroom. With all the people in the home that morning, it is said that a lot of evidence was probably destroyed that would’ve been of great help to the investigation. One of the detectives, Linda Arndt asked Mr. Ramsey and his friend, Fleet White, to look around the home to see if they could find anything off. Mr. Ramsey immediately headed downstairs as if he knew that was where he would find JonBenet. Sure enough, the first room he headed to in the basement had JonBenet. White even claims that John cried out before he had flipped on the light switch. JonBenet was found with duct tape covering her mouth, nylon cord around her wrists and neck, and her torso covered by a white blanket. John Ramsey immediately picked up his daughter and carried her upstairs. Then, Arndt moved her to the living room. This goes against the most basic of police procedure and each time JonBenet was moved, evidence was destroyed. After undergoing an autopsy, it became evident that JonBenet died of strangulation and a skull fracture. Sexual assault was not ruled out, but it did not appear JonBenet had been conventionally raped. The autopsy also revealed that the last thing JonBenet had eaten was pineapple. In police photos taken of the house, there is a bowl of pineapple sitting on the table. When checked for fingerprints, the only fingerprints found were Burke Ramsey’s, but Patsy and John claim they do not remember preparing a bowl of pineapple for feeding any to JonBenet. They do maintain the their son slept through the whole episode, though.

There have been several theories about who killed JonBenet. The first and most common is that an intruder committed the crime. Lou Smit, a detective who came out of retirement to assist the District Attorney's office with the case, assessed the evidence and concluded that an intruder had committed the crime. Smit's theory was that someone broke into the Ramseys' home through a broken basement window. The intruder subdued JonBenet using a stun gun and took her down to the basement. JonBenet was killed and a ransom note was left. Smit's theory was supported by former FBI agent John E. Douglas, who had been hired by the Ramsey family. This is rather plausible for many reasons. JonBenet was a successful pageant girl and this could have possibly attracted the attention of child pornographers or pedophiles. There had been nearly 100 break-ins over the past couple months in Boulder before JonBenet was killed and there were about 38 registered sex offenders in the area.

Another popular claim is that either Patsy or John killed their daughter. In the death of a child, it is typically always a family member or caregiver. Initially, police concentrated solely on Patsy and John as the suspects, but because of their relationship with the District Attorney, the police was discouraged from doing so. Despite this, it is theorized that one of the parents, specifically Patsy, had an angry outburst and struck JonBenet, then developed an elaborate cover-up in order to protect themselves.

The last, and personally most interesting, theory is that her older brother killed her. According to the family, Burke had quite the temper. He apparently hated having a younger sister that his mother doted so much on. Apparently, Patsy told one family friend that Burke struck JonBenet with a golf club on one occasion and gave her a scar. The theory is that Burke got up in the middle of the night and made himself a bowl of pineapple and milk. This was JonBenet’s favorite snack, so when she wandered out of bed herself and saw him eating, she used her fingers to pluck a piece out of the bowl before running off from her brother. He chased after her and grabbed a flashlight on the counter, striking her just once, but hard enough to fracture her skull. If this is true, it isn’t easy to say if he intended to harm her or if he didn’t understand he could.Patsy and John upon finding this scene did everything in their power to protect Burke.

Many have done their best to figure out what truly happened to JonBenet. When a defenseless, 6-year-old girl is murdered, it is deeply saddening because she had so much more to share with the world, but the chance was taken from her too soon. I’m not sure if her murder will ever be solved, but she deserves that people keep trying.

Clemente, Jim, prod. "The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey." The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey. 18 Sept. 2016. CBS. Web. 03 Dec. 2016.
McClish, Mark. "JonBenet Ramsey Murder Statement Analysis." Statement Analysis. Statement Analysis, Oct. 2016. Web. 04 Dec. 2016.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy
Warning: Ted Bundy’s crimes were horrific, but I did my best to make them as vivid as possible in order for readers to understand his true nature. There are graphic descriptions in the following piece.

Nearly everyone who knew Ted Bundy saw him as handsome, ambitious, and confident, and he was. Unfortunately, he also happened to be a manic depressive and sociopath. Many find it difficult to believe those around Bundy didn’t see something wrong with him. Surely a man who murdered anywhere from 29 to 100 people would be unable to hide his sinister intentions from the rest of the world, but by putting on a charming and successful facade, Bundy was able to fool anyone he wanted to.

Bundy was born to Eleanor Louise Cowell (whom I will refer to as Louise to avoid confusion) as Theodore Robert Cowell in 1946 at the Elizabeth Lund Home for Unwed Mothers in Burlington, Vermont. Though his birth certificate has a “Lloyd Marshall” as his father, Cowell claims she was actually seduced by a war veteran named “Jack Worthington”. To avoid any questions, his maternal parents, Simon and Eleanor Cowell raised him. Bundy grew up believing his mother was actually his older sister. For the first few years of his life, Bundy and his mother lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1950, Bundy and Louis, whom he still believed was his sister, moved to live with relatives in Tacoma, Washington. The next year, in 1951, Bundy’s mother met Johnny Culpepper Bundy. The two were married and Johnny Bundy adopted Ted, legally changing his last name to "Bundy". Johnny and Louise went on to have other children, but Johnny did his best to include Ted in father-son activities. Despite his best efforts, Ted didn’t seem to be interested in connecting to his stepfather.

Bundy was a good student throughout his schooling, an active boy scout, and very involved with his local Methodist church. Despite appearing to be active socially, he had a very hard time interacting with others. He didn’t understand how to naturally behave with others. After graduating high school, Bundy earned a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound, but after two semesters, he transferred to Seattle’s University of Washington (UW). As a part of his psychology curriculum, Bundy volunteered at Seattle's Suicide Hot Line. Ann Rule, a true crime writer and former Seattle policewomen, met Bundy during this time. She writes that after he discovered Louise was actually his mother and not his sister on a trip to Vermont, he became a very “focused and dominant” person. After coming back to school after his break, Bundy became very involved in politics. In 1968, he managed the Seattle office of Nelson Rockefeller's Presidential campaign and attended the 1968 Republican convention in Miami, Florida as a Rockefeller supporter. Bundy became an honors student and was well liked by his professors. In 1969, he started dating Elizabeth Kloepfer, a divorced secretary with a daughter, who fell deeply in love with him. They would continue dating for more than six years, until he went to prison for kidnapping in 1976.

Bundy graduated in 1972 from UW with a degree in psychology. Soon afterward, he again went to work for the state Republican Party.

No one is quite sure when and where Bundy claimed his first victim. Ann Marie Burr, an eight-year-old girl from Tacoma, vanished from her home in 1961, when Bundy was 14 years old, though Bundy always denied killing her. Bundy's earliest known, identified murders were committed in 1974, when he was 27. Just after midnight one day in early January of 1974, Bundy entered the bedroom of an 18-year-old UW student and dancer named Joni Lenz. He promptly bludgeoned her with a metal rod and sexually assaulted her with the same rod. Lenz was found the next morning in a coma. Despite surviving the attack, she suffered permanent brain damage. Next, Bundy attacked another UW student named Lynda Ann Healy early one morning in February, 1974. He knocked her unconscious, dressed her in jeans and a shirt, wrapped her in a sheet, and carried her out. In March of 1974, in Olympia, Bundy kidnapped and murdered Donna Gail Manson, a 19-year-old student at The Evergreen State College. Then, in April, Susan Rancourt disappeared from the campus of Central Washington State College in Ellensburg. Next was Kathy Parks, last seen on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, in May of 1974. Then, Brenda Ball was never seen again after leaving The Flame Tavern in Burien on June. Again, in June, Bundy followed Georgeann Hawkins, a UW Kappa Alpha Theta sorority sister. Bundy's Washington killing spree culminated on July 14, 1974, with the daytime abduction of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund from Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah. Nearly eight people came to the police to describe a handsome man in the area claiming he was named “Ted” who was asking girls to help him with his boat. One witness claimed to see Ott follow “Ted”. She was not seen alive, again. Naslund would disappear hours later without a trace. The police put up fliers with a description of the suspect and his car. Ann Rule and one of Bundy’s psychology professors would suggest him to the police, but they didn’t pay any special attention to the law student. The fragmented remains of both Ott and Naslund were found in September of 1974 just off an interstate about one mile from where they were taken. In March of the next year, the bones of Healy, Rancourt, Parks and Ball were found on Taylor Mountain just east of Issaquah. Bundy also claims Donna Manson was dumped here, but there was no trace of her found.

In the fall of 1974, Bundy enrolled in law school at the University of Utah, but he did poorly and would eventually drop out within a year, but in October of 1974, he resumed killing.  Nancy Wilcox disappeared from Holladay, Utah, in early October and was last seen riding in a Volkswagen Beetle like many of the Washington victims. About two weeks later, Bundy raped, sodomized, and strangled Melissa Smith, who was the 17-year-old daughter of the local police chief. Next was Laura Aime, also 17, who disappeared when she left a Halloween party in Lehi, Utah, in October of 1947. She was found naked, beaten and strangled corpse nearly a month later by hikers on the banks of a river in American Fork Canyon. In Murray, Utah, in November of 1974, Carol DaRonch was approached by Bundy in a mall. He claimed that someone was trying to break into her car. She believed that he was a police officer, so she followed him to see if anything had been stolen. After assuring Bundy everything was there, DaRonch was asked to come with him to the police department and file a complaint. She rode in his car with him but didn’t put on her seatbelt. While driving, Bundy suddenly pulled off to the side of the road and attempted to handcuff her, but in his haste, he put both cuffs on the same wrist. She jumped from his car, narrowly escaping with her life. About an hour later, a man showed up Viewmont High School in Bountiful, Utah, where the drama club was putting on a play. The man asked a student and the drama teacher to come with him outside to identify a car. Both declined, but the drama teacher saw him again at the end of the play. He was breathing hard, his hair was messed up, and his shirt was untucked. Later, it would become clear that Debby Kent was missing. Kent, a 17-year-old Viewmont High student, left the play at intermission to go and pick up her brother, and was never seen again. Investigators found a key in the parking lot that unlocked the handcuffs on Carol DaRonch’s wrist.

After this, while still attending law school, Bundy shifted his crimes to Colorado. In January of 1975, Caryn Campbell disappeared from the Wildwood Inn at Snowmass, Colorado, where she had been vacationing with her fiancé and his children. Her body was found the next month in February.  Next, was Vail ski instructor Julie Cunningham disappeared in March and Denise Oliverson in Grand Junction in April. Meanwhile, back in Washington, investigators were using computers to cross-check different likely lists of suspects against each other. Theodore Bundy was one of the 25 suspects that turned up and he was put under a “To Be Investigative” file, but Bundy was arrested for failure in August of 1975, in Salt Lake City, for failure to stop for a police officer. The police searched his car and found several items they thought were burglary tools. A Utah detective, Jerry Thompson, connected Bundy and his Volkswagen to DaRonch’s kidnapping and the missing girls. The police went on to search his apartment, then the police brought Bundy in for a lineup before DaRonch and the Bountiful witnesses. Bundy was convicted of DaRonch's kidnapping on March 1, 1976, following a week-long trial, and was sentenced to 15 years in Utah State Prison. On top of that, Bundy was facing murder charges in Colorado, so he was sent there to stand trial. In June of 1977, in preparation for the Caryn Campbell murder trial, Bundy was taken to the Pitkin County courthouse in Aspen. During a court recess, he went to the courthouse's library, where he jumped out of the building from a second-story window and escaped. After his escape, Bundy made his way toward Aspen Mountain. He made it all the way to the top of Aspen Mountain without being detected, where he rested for two days in an abandoned hunting cabin. He intended to take one of two trails that led down the mountain toward Crested Butte, but missed both of them. A few days later, Bundy stole a car and drove back into Aspen. He was pulled over by an officer for having on low headlights while weaving in and out of traffic, but Bundy was recognized and promptly taken back to the station. Bunday was then taken to the jail in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. While there, another prisoner gave him a blade which he used to slowly cut away at the metal plate above his head and access the crawl space above. It was decided on December 23, 1977, that the Caryn Campbell murder trial would start in January of 1978, and the venue was changed Colorado Springs. Bundy realized that he had to make his escape before he was transferred out of the Glenwood Springs jail. Less than one week later, Bundy slipped into the crawlspace, dropped into a linen closet a few feet away, and walked out the door. He then stole another car, but it broke down in the mountains. Another driver saw him broken down, so he gave Bundy a ride to Vail. From there, Bundy caught a bus to Denver, then a flight to Chicago. By the time, his cell was found empty, Bundy was long gone.

Bundy proceeded to jump around from city to city. He went to Ann Arbor, Michigan, then Atlanta, Georgia, then Tallahassee, Florida. There, he rented a room at a boarding house under the alias of "Chris Hagen" and committed numerous petty crimes. After one week in Tallahassee, his insignificant crimes changed back to come out in his more homicidal urges. Bundy entered the Florida State University Chi Omega sorority house and killed two sleeping women, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman. Bundy bludgeoned and strangled both Levy and Bowman, but he also sexually assaulted Levy. He also bludgeoned two other Chi Omegas, Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiner. After leaving the Chi Omega house, Bundy broke into another home a few blocks away, clubbing and severely injuring Florida State University student Cheryl Thomas. Then, in February of 1978, Bundy traveled to Lake City, Florida. In Lake City, he abducted, raped, and murdered a 12-year-old named Kimberly Leach, then threw her body under a small pig shed. A few days later, Bundy stole another Volkswagen Beetle and headed west across Florida’s panhandle, but his journey was cut short. In the early morning hours, Bundy was stopped by yet another police officer and the plates came up as stolen. He was taken into custody and gave the name “Ken Misner”, but the department made a fingerprint identification the next day. He was transported to Tallahassee and was charged with his Florida murders. Bundy was convicted on all accounts and was sentenced to death. Bundy married his former coworker, Carole Ann Boone. Following numerous conjugal visits between Bundy and his new wife, Boone gave birth to a daughter in October 1982, but Boone and her daughter moved out of the state and changed their names. FBI profiler Robert K. Ressler visited Bundy while he was being housed in Starke prison, but Ressler described Bundy as manipulative and uncooperative. He would only refer to himself in the third-person and speak only in hypotheticals. It amazed Ressler that the media didn’t see him for what he was: an animal. But William Hagmaier, a special agent of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit also visited Bundy. The pair grew close and Bundy confided deeply in Hagmaier, going as far as to call the special agent his best friend. Bundy went on to confess details of the crimes that were either unknown or unconfirmed. One of the most bone-chilling pieces of information he would give while in custody was that he frequently returned to dumpsites to “be with the corpses”, even going as far as to have sex with them while they decomposed. The serial killer would do his best to use this to his advantage; he would give small details of his crimes and confess to more murders, claiming that he could give more if he was given more time, but the ploy failed and Bundy was killed on schedule. Late one day in January of 1989, Bundy was executed in the electric chair. His last words were, “I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends."

It seems as though Ted Bundy was born to kill. The thought is scary considering he hid his dark fantasies so well for years. While his crimes were tragic and terrible, psychologists and law enforcement alike learned a lot about minds like his.

Blanco, Juan Ignacio. "Ted Bundy | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers." Ted Bundy | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers., Web. 25 Nov. 2016.
Truesdell, Jeff. "Who Was Ted Bundy? A Look at the Serial Killer’s Trail Of Terror." Time Inc., 12 May 2016. Web. 25 Nov. 2016.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Zodiac Killer

The Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer is by far one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century for the fact that he has yet to be identified. While it is certain that he killed at least 5 people, he has claimed to have killed 37. There have been several new facts and theories brought into light in the past decades. It seems unbelievable that with all the advances we have made since the Zodiac Killer was actively killing that he has yet to be captured, but the idea that someone so menacing has evaded capture is what makes the Zodiac Killer interesting.

The first attack that has been definitively linked to the self-proclaimed “Zodiac Killer” took place on December 20, 1968. 17-year-old David Faraday and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Betty Lou Jensen, were fatally shot on the outskirts of Vallejo, California in car at a remote spot on Lake Herman Road. When police arrived on the scene, both Faraday and Jensen were found just outside the vehicle, which was covered in bullet holes. Jensen was dead upon arrival, but Faraday was barely hanging onto life. Unfortunately, he died while en route to the hospital. Police were extremely confused by the crime because there did not seem to be an apparent motive or link to a suspect.

Just over six months after the killings, on July 5, , Darlene Ferrin, 22, and Mike Mageau, 19, were also killed. As Faraday and Jensen had been, Ferrin and Mageau were sitting in their parked car by Blue Rock Springs Park. This location was not far from where Faraday and Jensen had been killed. Ferrin died on the way to the hospital, but Mageau survived. Mageau, in his report to police, claimed that a car pulled up behind them with his lights on. Initially, he believed is was a police officer, but as soon as the Zodiac Killer approached the driver’s side door, he began to fire his gun. He then turned to leave, but Mageau began to yell, so the killer returned and fired more shots. Still, he survived and gave a description of the shooter to police. Mageau claimed that the Zodiac Killer was a short, heavyset white man, about 5' 8" and around 195 pounds. An anonymous man called the Vallejo Police Department soon after the shooting to report the murders and to take credit for the murders of Faraday and Jensen.

It was on Friday, August 1, 1969, that the first of the Zodiac Killer’s letters were received by three separate newspapers. The San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle and Vallejo Times-Herald each received an almost identical letter written by a person taking credit for the attacks on the four teens. He gave each newspaper ⅓ of a confusing cipher and detailed descriptions about both crimes. The Zodiac Killer demanded that each of his letters be posted on the front page of each newspaper by Friday or he would go on a spree and kill 12 people over the weekend. The newspapers complied and published the letters while authorities and citizens both began to try and decode the messages. Police investigators publicly stated that they had doubts that this was the true killer to try and lure him out, and the plan worked. On August 4th, another letter arrived, but this time to just the San Francisco Examiner. In this letter, it was the first time he referred to himself as the Zodiac. Yet again, he sent another cipher that claimed would reveal his identity. Only 4 days later on August 8th, a high school teacher and his wife managed to crack all but the last 18 letters of the message. Unfortunately, the message was more a rave as to how much the Zodiac Killer enjoyed killing rather than an identity.

On September 27, 1969, there was yet another couple was targeted. Bryan Hartnell, 20, and Cecelia Shepard, 22, were picnicking near Napa, California on Lake Berryessa. A man wearing an executioner's hood and carrying a semiautomatic rifle approached them and claimed he had escaped from a Montana prison. He demanded money and the keys to their car. Despite being fully cooperative, the man went on to make Shepard hogtie Hartnell, then the man did the same with Shepard himself before he stabbed them both and walked off casually, leaving behind a message written on the couple’s car door. The pair was found by a fisherman while they were still alive, but it took over an hour for medical help to arrive. The Napa Police Department received a call not long after from the Zodiac Killer to inform them of the crime and also take credit. Shepard died two days later, but Hartnell survived and gave a detailed description of the attacker and the attack itself.

The next attack was not on a couple like the previous three had, but instead on a lone cab driver. On October 11, 1969, 29-year-old Paul Stine of San Francisco picked up a passenger in Union Square and drove to the wealthy area of Cherry Street and Nob Hill. The man proceeded to shoot Stine in the temple before taking his wallet, car keys, and a piece of his shirt. Three young teens witnessed the event from a building nearby and promptly contacted police. They described the shooter as being between 25 and 30 and with a stocky build a crew cut shirt. A manhunt was promptly launched, but there was a terrible miscommunication and police were sent to search for a black man. It was later found out that police passed a man fitting the exact, correct description, but because he was white, police did not consider him a suspect. On October 14, the San Francisco Chronicle received another letter from the Zodiac contained Stine’s blood soaked shirt. He went on to claim the he next intended to target a school bus filled with children. Then, on November 8 and 9, the San Francisco Chronicle received two more Zodiac letters. The first one was a 340-character cipher. The second letter was seven pages long and included another piece of Stine's shirt. In the letter he claimed the police had stopped and talked with him three minutes after he shot Stine. He also drew a schematic of what he referred to as his "death machine" which was made to blow up large objects, such as school busses.

Then, on December 20, 1969, Melvin Belli, a well-known defense attorney and victim of a Zodiac hoax, received a Christmas card from the real Zodiac that contained yet another piece of Stine’s shirt. The Zodiac begged for help, claiming he couldn’t remain in control for much longer. Belli reached out to try and get the Zodiac to contact him, again, but it did not work. On April 20, 1970, the Zodiac set another letter to the San Francisco Chronicle which included a 13-character cipher and a diagram of a bomb he planned to use to blow up a school bus. Throughout the summer, the Zodiac continued to send in letters of mocking ciphers, but there were no murders that could be positively linked to him. In 1974, the letters suddenly stopped.

The Zodiac Killer case continues to frustrate both law enforcement and average citizens alike, and while several jurisdictions keep the case remain open, the San Francisco Police Department currently considers the case inactive and unsolved. While no one has ever been definitely identified, three suspects tend to stand out the most in the Zodiac Killer case: Arthur Leigh Allen, Earl Van Best, Jr., and Lawrence “Kane” Kaye. Arthur Leigh Allen claimed to be scuba diving at Lake Berryessa the day Shepard and Hartnell were attacked, a friend of Allen said that he had referred to himself as the Zodiac, and when police searched his trailer they found bloody knives, sexual objects, dissected animals, and homicide bombs. Allen was jailed for child molestation in 1974 and the letters promptly stopped. Earl Van Best, Jr. was initially accused of being the Zodiac Killer by his son, Gary L Stewart. He bears a striking resemblance to the police sketch from Paul Stine’s murder and the number of letters in one of the Zodiac Killer’s ciphers has the same number of letters that are in Best’s name. Finally, Lawrence “Kane” Kaye lived where the victims were attacked, and the sister of one of his victims claimed that he had been bothering her sister in the weeks before she was murdered. One of the cops who encountered the man who may have been the Zodiac following Paul Stine’s murder also said that Kane bore the best resemblance to the man he’d seen on the street shortly after the killing.

Despite all the years that have past without the Zodiac being caught, police and citizens remain very interested in the case. Many doubt that a perpetrator will ever be caught, but others remain hopeful. Personally, I doubt that someone will ever be tried for the Zodiac killings seeing as there are no more murders being committed.

Montaldo, Charles.  "Why the Case of the Zodiac Killer Remains Unsolved." News & Issues. About Inc., 01 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Rutherford-Morrison, Lara. "Everything You Wanted To Know About The Zodiac Killer, But Were Too Afraid To Google." Bustle. Bustle, 28 June 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate

Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate
Charles Starkweather was a spree killer who went through Nebraska and Wyoming for a two-month period and ended up murdering 11 people with the help of his girlfriend Caril Fugate. He was was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1938 to a working-class, mild-mannered family. Though his family life was enjoyable, Starkweather had a difficult time in school. As someone with a speech impediment, Genu varum, which is a disease that caused his legs to be misshapen, poor vision, and slow learning abilities, Starkweather was subjected to constant teasing. It was in gym class that he excelled and discovered his own skill for revenge. It wasn’t long before revenge escalated to him becoming a bully himself. This didn’t prevent him from developing an inferiority complex. He believed he was unable to do anything correctly and was destined to fail.

Starkweather met Caril Fugate in 1956 at the age of eighteen. She was only thirteen, but the two were instantly drawn to each other. He dropped out of Lincoln High School and sought a warehouse job near Fugate’s school. While Starkweather was teaching her to drive, she crashed the vehicle he drove, but it was owned by his father. An argument between Starkweather and his father followed and he was kicked out of the home. Soon after, he quit his job at the warehouse and became a garbage collector.

The first murder committed by Starkweather was not apart of his spree, but more a chance to hone in his skill for killing. On November 30, 1957, Starkweather entered a service station in Lincoln and robbed a cashier at gunpoint before forcing the man into the backseat of his car. At this point, Starkweather drove to a secluded location and forced the cashier out of the car. A brief struggle ensued and the cashier was shot in the knees, then Starkweather finished him off with a shot to the head. In his excited state, he told Fugate about the robbery, but not the murder. He claimed someone else must be responsible. Fugate did not believe him, but kept quiet.

It was on January 21, 1958 that Starkweather and Fugate began to leave behind their trail of murders. Starkweather visited Fugate’s home in Lincoln, despite her claiming to have dumped him 2 days prior. Regardless, Fugate was not home. It was clear her parents weren’t fans of Starkweather, so when he showed up, an argument began over Caril Fugate. They wanted him to stop seeing their daughter, but he wasn’t fond of the idea. He used his shotgun to fatally shoot both Fugate’s mother and father before he strangled and stabbed their two-year old-daughter. This is when the story gets a bit more complicated. Starkweather claims that when Caril Fugate returned home, she was a willing accomplice to helping him hide the bodies, but she claims that Starkweather told her that her family was being held captive and he would kill them if she did not comply. Either way, the three bodies were stored around the property and the pair remained in the house for 6 more days. Fugate answered the door when people showed up and claimed that the family was sick with the flu. When her grandmother threatened to call the police, the two fled and by the time the Lincoln Police Department showed up, they were gone.

Starkweather and Fugate drove to Bennet, Nebraska and arrived at the home of Starkweather’s family friend, August Meyer. The unsuspecting, seventy-year-old man opened his home to them, but he was fatally shot by Starkweather. While fleeing the scene, the car became stuck in the mud. Two local teenagers, Robert Jensen and Carol King, spotted them and offered them a ride, but Starkweather forced them to drive back towards Bennet, then took them to an abandoned storm shelter. Starkweather claims that he shot Jensen and Fugate shot King, but Fugate claims that Starkweather both raped King and then proceeded to shoot both of them. The pair took Jensen’s car and drove into a wealthy part of Lincoln searching for a place to hide. They entered the home of a prominent local industrialist C. Lauer and his wife Clara Ward along with their maid, Lillian Fencl. Starkweather admits to having thrown a knife at Ward, but stated that it was Fugate who both fatally stabbed the two and inflicted the stab wounds found across their bodies. Later that evening, Lauer arrived home and Starkweather shot him. The two filled up Lauer’s vehicle with stolen jewelry and left Nebraska. Lancaster County was thrown into an uproar as the current governor alerted Nebraska National Guard and the Lincoln Police Department’s chief of police called for a block-by-block search of the city for the pair.

Starkweather planned to drive to Washington state, but near Douglas, Wyoming, he ditched Lauer’s vehicle. He spotted a middle-aged shoe salesmans, Merle Collison sleeping in his car along the highway. This is another event in which Starkweather and Fugate have mixed perspectives. Starkweather claims that he woke Collison up, shot him, but when the shotgun jammed, Fugate finished him off. According to Starkweather, Fugate was the “most trigger happy person” he had ever met. Fugate stated that Starkweather approached the car, tapped on the window, ordered Collinson out of his car, but the man refused, so Starkweather fired several shots. Whatever is true, the pair ended in Collinson’s car, but it had a push-pedal emergency brake. Joe Sprinkle of Casper, Wyoming spotted the two cars pulled off to try and help. Starkweather asked for his help with the emergency brake, but Sprinkle spotted Collinson’s body stuffed under the dashboard.

A tall man, Sprinkle had an advantage over Starkweather, so he attempted to wrestle the shotgun away. He managed and at about the same time he won, a deputy sheriff, William Romer, drove up. Fugate bolted from the car towards the deputy yelling something along the lines of, “It’s Starkweather! He’s crazy! He’s just killed a man and he’s going to kill me!” Starkweather drove back in the direction of Douglas, Wyoming while Romer stayed behind with Fugate and radioed for help. The Douglas Police Chief, Bob Ainslie, and County Sheriff, Earl Heflin, set up a roadblock near Douglas as soon as they received the radio alert. Starkweather sped through it, so Ainslie gave chase as Heflin fired out of the window. Heflin shattered a back window and Starkweather came to an immediate halt before he surrendered. Heflin believed that Starkweather stopped because he was afraid he was bleeding to death from the broken glass nicking his ear and right hand.

The next day, January 31, 1958, Starkweather was returned to Nebraska, but his trial didn’t begin until May. Initially, he claimed that Fugate had been kidnapped and was not acting on her own accord, but rather his. His story changed several times until he testified against her at how trial and claimed that Fugate had been a willing participant. Starkweather was only tried for the murder for Robert Jensen and was found guilty and sentenced the death penalty on May 23. On the other hand, Fugate’s trial and conviction were much more complicated. She became so agitated in the Douglas jail that Heflin had to have her sedated. The next morning, she begged for her parents and wondered why she wasn’t being allowed to call them. Heflin told reporters that he truly believed she was unaware of her parents death. Upon confirming their deaths, Fugate broke down. Fugate always claimed that she had been captured and that Starkweather had been threatening to kill her family had she not participated in his killing spree, but when Romer testified that she had admitting to seeing her family dead. Heflin also claimed that Fugate had clippings in her pocket about her family’s deaths. Judge Harry A. Spencer did not believe her story, so she received a life sentence on November 21, 1958. After spending about 18 years in the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York, Nebraska, she was paroled in June of 1976. Fugate then moved to Lansing, Michigan, where she never married and refused interview.

Blanco, Juan Ignacio. "Charles Starkweather | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers." Charles Starkweather | Murderpedia, the Encyclopedia of Murderers., Web. 13 Nov. 2016.
"The Killing Spree That Transfixed a Nation: Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate, 1958." The Wyoming State Historical Society, 11 Nov. 2016. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.